YouTube Celebrated Pride by Refusing to Stop Targeted Homophobic Abuse
YouTube’s track record with the LGBT community is already poor- now, it’s even worse.
For two years, Steven Crowder, the Alt-Right darling with over 4 million subscribers on YouTube has built his brand spewing hate and bigotry from his video podcast show “Louder with Crowder.” Entire episodes of his program are devoted to attacking feminists, transgender people, victims of rape, immigrants, democrats and gay men. In these disturbing videos, Crowder does things like dress up in drag and pretend to be a woman while demanding access to women’s locker rooms at a local gym and makes prank calls “Liberal” churches asking if they’ll take in refugees. He makes fun of slavery, the holocaust and does it under the pretext of comedy. But, It’s not comedy.
It’s actually one of the most pointed, grotesque displays of White Nationalism with such emboldened audacity that it could only be delivered on the heels of a post Trumpism era. But Crowder doesn’t stop with his scathing attacks on minorities and vulnerable communities, he actually targets individuals from these communities that he detests.
Enter Carlos Maza, an openly gay journalist for VOX who, for the past two years, has endured an onslaught of verbal attacks from Crowder during his show. He’s called him homophobic slurs, mocked his voice in a high pitched, squealing lisp, exaggerated what Crowder defines as gay mannerisms by flitting his wrists around in an effeminate fashion and has, in response to criticism for his conduct, dog whistled his audience who responded by doxxing Maza and making death threats.
According to Maza, initially he attempted to deal with the hate campaign privately, reporting videos in which he was attacked by Crowder to YouTube via their automated system. Unfortunately, despite the glaring evidence and prolific instances of targeted harassment, YouTube claimed it didn’t violate their rules. Sadly, this is consistent with Youtube’s history of positioning themselves against the LGBT community, thereby empowering radical conservatives like Crowder and those similar platformers who feel untouchable.
It was only 2 years ago that LGBTQ+ YouTube creators woke up to find most of their channels demonetized. In one fell swoop, everyone from gay educators, make-up artists that host tutorials to internationally famous bands such as the lesbian duo Tegan and Sara and Youtube’s own self-made Superstar, Tyler Oakly, found themselves demonetized, branded as “Adult Content” and taken out of routine circulation. This, YouTube said, was in pursuit of placing content they deemed “Not appropriate for advertisers” behind an age restricted wall. Thousands upon thousands of accounts suffered as a result.
Backlash ensued, prompting YouTube to issue an apology for the mass exodus of LGBTQ+ content. Some saw their videos restored, while many others, even today- 2 years later- still find their content demonetized. More bizarre is that YouTube decided to allow anti-gay ads to appear before videos by LGBTQ+ creators, despite being demonetized.
And while the LGBTQ+ YouTube community took a massive hit, YouTube felt that channels featuring white supremacists preaching hate, videos showing graphic animal abuse, (Hetero)sexually explicit comedy skits and teenagers lighting themselves on fire or jumping from rooftops onto mattresses of broken glass were more aligned with their new family friendly direction.
This was all just before YouTube changed their logo to Pride Colors in celebration of Gay Pride month in 2017… again in 2018, and in 2019 when, during the same month, their own employees staged a protest against the company for how it has handled their policies regarding abuse and harassment of LGBTQ+ users.
That brings us back to Crowder and his aggressive racist, homophobic smear campaign on Manza that has been ongoing for 2 years. Youtube decided Crowder wasn’t in violation of their terms of service.
Indeed, YouTube claimed that the targeted abuse of an individual or community wasn’t against their rules- but videos by a gay make-up artist are, apparently.
Shortly after announcing that YouTube would remain complicit in the virtual abuse of LGBTQ+ folks, the company, just a day later, reversed it’s decision and demonetized Crowder’s channel.
“In the case of Crowder’s channel, a thorough review over the weekend found that individually, the flagged videos did not violate our Community Guidelines. However, in the subsequent days, we saw the widespread harm to the YouTube community resulting from the ongoing pattern of egregious behavior, took a deeper look, and made the decision to suspend monetization.” — YouTube
Indeed they did, which, ironically, meant only that Crowder was now being treated by YouTube the same way they have treated their LGBTQ+ creators who didn’t break any rules. However, they pledged to enforce the same policy against other accounts that espouse hatred and discrimination. You can read their entire statement here.
“YouTube has always had rules of the road, including a longstanding policy against hate speech. In 2017, we introduced a tougher stance towards videos with supremacist content, including limiting recommendations and features like comments and the ability to share the video. This step dramatically reduced views to these videos (on average 80%). Today, we’re taking another step in our hate speech policy by specifically prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status. This would include, for example, videos that promote or glorify Nazi ideology, which is inherently discriminatory. Finally, we will remove content denying that well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, took place.” - YouTube
YouTube has consistently failed the LGBTQ+ community while at the same time feigning corporate allegiance when advantageous. While abusive users of the platform believe they are justified by standing on the First Amendment- Freedom of speech, an important distinction not typically made is that while hate speech might be protected according to the conservative US Supreme court, it still has consequences. The damage levied by radical hate speech on large platforms is far reaching. Already, LGBTQ+ people are five times more likely to experience depression, anxiety and suicide ideation. Given that YouTube has a monopoly on the independent video creator industry and no measurable competition, with a network of 1.3 Billion users, it has a global, social responsibility to better moderate the material being posted that could intentionally place others, especially those within vulnerable communities, at an elevated risk for violence or self harm.
Although YouTube has released a string of apologies, decisions, reconsiderations and new policies then revised those policies over the last few years, very little has changed with regard to its investment in protecting users from abuse. YouTube has inadvertently become a breeding ground for extremist behavior and attacks as more radical conservatives and white supremacists feel safe and protected under their umbrella. It is no coincidence that the most disliked video on YouTube is a Pride video featuring Transgender folks.
with 302,000+ dislikes, the video itself stands as a testament to the climate that YouTube has fostered behind its walls for the LGBTQ+ community. While the video is supposed to affirm diverse identities, the most telling indication of the hostility running rampant in YouTube’s user base is in the reactions to it. Thankfully, they disabled the comments.
It is unclear if YouTube will actually mobilize to improve the quality of user experience for LGBTQ+ people or if they’ll still engage in the occasional pat on the head- such as the video above- and turning their logo into a rainbow flag each June while continuing to ignore the the toxic environment that they are nurturing via their own neglect.
Once again, as with all the times before, we’ll have to wait and see.